20 Jun 2012

How to build trust in the digital age

ICAEW's IT faculty brought together brought together experts from business, the profession, law and academia for a round table discussion to launch its latest report Building Trust in the Digital Age

In a wide-ranging discussion, the participants considered three separate questions raised by the report:
• To what extent is there an opportunity to turn privacy protection into a competitive advantage rather than a compliance burden?
• How do businesses protect their intellectual property in an environment of constant technological change?
• What are the key steps to achieving greater organisational commitment to information security?

Each question incorporated two different levels of discussion. First, participants shared some of the specific issues and challenges facing individual businesses in developing and implementing effective information strategies. Second, participants raised some wider policy issues concerning rights and control over information in a digital environment.

While the discussion was broad, a few common themes emerged.

The impact of social and mobile technology

The spread of social media and mobile technology was felt to be shifting the ground significantly in all of these areas. Whether is it the security risks of using personal consumer devices, the increasing threats of leaking of confidential information through social media, or the trading of personal data for free internet services, these trends represent major changes and raise new challenges for businesses and policy-makers in building a secure and trusted digital environment.

Generational differences

The discussion considered the impact of generational differences. Participants all recognised that many younger people have very different approaches to privacy and intellectual property. However, the long-term impact of these differences was disputed. Some participants argued that as this generation gets older, and their life situation changes to focus on jobs, mortgages and other commitments, they will become more aware of the risks around information and their attitudes will change. Others thought that younger generations often have quite sophisticated approaches to the risks and implications of sharing or copying information, and that there was no inherent reason why their attitudes would change over time.

A principles-based approach

There was also recognition that the world would look very different in 5 years, and we can’t predict either the technology changes, or the changes in how we will use technology. Therefore, we need to focus on long-standing principles that can withstand future changes in technology and business. Any attempts to legislate on the basis of particularly waves of technology would be bound to fail, and may even stifle innovation.

Julia Irvine